A memoir is a piece of autobiographical writing, usually shorter in nature than a comprehensive autobiography. The memoir, especially as it is used in publishing today, often tries to capture certain highlights or meaningful moments in one’s past, often including a contemplation of the meaning of that event at the time of the writing of the memoir. The memoir may be more emotional and concerned with capturing particular scenes, or a series of events, rather than documenting every facet of a person’s life
To write a memoir, begin by brainstorming on paper all the events you can remember from your life that were either very important to you in a positive way or very important to you in a negative way. Talk to other members of your family to get ideas, help you remember events from when you are small, and to help fill in the details that might have been forgotten. Select the event, or series of related events, that seems most interesting to you right now. Brainstorm again but in more detail, trying to recall names, places, descriptions, voices, conversations, things, and all the other details that will make this turn into an interesting memoir. Work at the note taking stage for a few days, until you feel you’ve got it all down on paper.
Then begin to write. You will be surprised to see that even more details begin to appear once you start to write. For your first draft, write quickly to get all your ideas down from beginning to end. Don’t worry about editing. Before you revise, share your first draft with someone in the family. Consider their response, but go with what feels right. Rewrite and then start editing as needed. Good memoirs are about every day things, but they are interesting, sometimes just as interesting to read as a good novel. But remember, a memoir is supposed to be true, so be careful not to exaggerate or embellish the truth.
Good luck, if you are thinking of writing one, welcome to the world of writing.
This piece was written after children of grade six were taught ‘How to write a memoir’ and the ideas are from the teacher guide.
Reference: English curriculum guide for teachers, CAPSD, Ministry of Education, Paro Bhutan, 2006. (ISBN: 99936-0-260-6)